Yes, we should hold public schools accountable for effectively spending the vast funds with which they have been entrusted. But accountability policies like No Child Left Behind, based exclusively on math and reading test scores, have narrowed the curriculum, misidentified both failing and successful schools, and established irresponsible expectations for what schools can accomplish. Instead of just grading progress in one or two narrow subjects, we should hold schools accountable for the broad outcomes we expect from public education - basic knowledge and skills, critical thinking, an appreciation of the arts, physical and emotional health, and preparation for skilled employment - and then develop the means to measure and ensure schools' success in achieving them. ""Grading Education"" describes a new kind of accountability plan for public education, one that relies on higher-quality testing, focuses on professional evaluation, and builds on capacities we already possess.
Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). He is the author of Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. Rebecca Jacobsen is an assistant professor of teacher education and education policy at Michigan State University. Tamara Wilder is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.